Friday, October 22, 2021

Review Day: Oculus Quest 2

The latest iteration of VR headsets, the Oculus Quest 2, is a muddle of compromises that is nevertheless worth it, due solely to its completely wireless gameplay.

Last year at this time, I was on the fence about VR -- my first generation Rift had developed a sound issue from a very common manufacturing problem and Facebook was charging 40% of the original price to get it fixed. They were also pairing headsets with Facebook accounts, which I still think is an awful idea. I finally decided to get the Quest 2 for my 42nd birthday because I wanted something new to do in the 15 minute gaps between childcare and I was sitting on too many bonuses from work.

The biggest improvement from the Rift to the Quest is that there are NO MORE WIRES (besides one for charging the unit when it's not in use). All of the wires and cameras you used to have to set up around your room to play are gone. Everything you need to do VR is shown in the picture below.

This is huge from a setup and comfort perspective -- you can now do VR wherever you'd like and are no longer tethered to a high-powered PC. The headset downloads games over Wi-Fi, which can also be used to cast to a TV for an audience with a $30 Chromecast. Once of the biggest problems I had with the Rift was getting the motivation to move my gaming PC to the bigger room each time and having to be careful of the cables so I didn't accidentally pull the PC off a table while playing. Now, I do a daily morning workout with Beat Saber before getting started with my day.

The limitations of wireless play are few -- graphics aren't quite as good because all processing is done in the headset, and there are weird delays in the TV casting that make showing off a rhythm game more challenging. You can purchase an $80 cable to continue playing your high-end VR games on your PC with this headset, but I haven't bothered -- the native games are good enough and not glaringly worse looking than before.

The headset is easier to put on and take off, or quickly adjust for other players. It's definitely more front-heavy, which affects games like Walkabout Minigolf where your head is looking down then to the side a lot. "VR Hair" still happens as well. Once new limitation is the adjustment of the lenses for your interpupillary distance (IPD). The Rift had a smooth slider with lots of available settings. The Quest only has 3, right around the bell curve of the average person's IPD. What this means for a person like me with an IPD just outside the fixed range is that the image can be sometimes feel out of focus. This is really only a problem when there's text to read on the screen though.

The controllers are a little bigger, which is better for tall people. For me, though, this is just more area to get slippery and sweaty. The controller has slid out of my hand during Beat Saber enough that I try to clutch them in a "claw" grip now. Tracking with the built-in cameras is definitely not as good as on the Rift. My Beat Saber precision has gone down and sometimes I'll miss blocks on the sides of my head that should have clearly been hit. And lastly, you will need a Facebook account to use the Quest. I don't like the idea in general, especially since an account suspension / ban on Facebook apparently prevents you from using the hardware.

The bottom line is that this is VR at a reasonable consumer price ($400, vs $800 for the Rift) and the absence of wires makes it really easy to just enjoy the experience without lots of setup. I would recommend the Quest 2 to anyone with a VR curiosity and money to burn. Game reviews to follow next week!

Final Grade: B+

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